It is always rational to sacrifice a smaller group for the sake of a larger group if both groups are irreconcilable. The same idea is present in the scriptures.

For the sake of a family a member may be sacrificed; for the sake of a village a family may be sacrificed, for the sake of a province a village may be sacrificed and for the sake of one's own soul the whole earth may be sacrificed.

[Section 61, Sisupala-badha Parva, Sabha Parva, The Mahabharata]

I have difficulty understanding the bolded portion.

I am thinking of two interpretations:

#1: One has to renounce (sacrifice) the whole earth to realize oneself (soul).

Although this interpretation seems apt, it is Vedantic in nature. I doubt whether this interpretation is correct in this context as it seems not intended to be related to Vedanta and probably is vyavaharika.

#2: One has to sacrifice the whole earth to protect herself.

Suppose this is taken as the exact interpretation. In that case, it deviates from the passage's intention to protect the larger group('s interest) compared to the smaller one.

Which one among the both is valid? If none, what is the exact interpretation of the bolded portion?

  • 1
    there is no confusion here if you look at WHO is doing the sacrificing in each of the 4 scenarios mentioned above. for family, one member is sacrificed - meaning renounced/banished by head of family or entire family i.e. they cut of all connections to him. this was advised by rishis when Duryodhan was born due to ill omens, but Dhritarashtra refused to sacrifice him. For village, one family is sacrificed - this happens in bakasura story in mahabharat, each day one family in village sends someone as food to asura. similarly, for one's atma, i.e. moksha, YOU renounce the entire world.
    – ram
    Jul 16, 2022 at 19:19
  • it doesn't mean there is some asura waiting to eat the world after you 'sacrifice' it - it means you cut off your ties with the world.
    – ram
    Jul 16, 2022 at 19:19


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